Topping up Carboy?

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Braden

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So I just now found out that I probably should’ve topped up my Carboy. My wine is stabilizing right now and has been for about 2 weeks now. I didn’t top my Carboy up and there is a good bit of space. Will it still turn out okay? Should I bottle my wine and let it age in the bottle?
 

cmason1957

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Is there some reason you can't top it up now? 2 weeks is not a huge amount of time. I would try to get some like wine.
 

Braden

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What should I top it up with? Since I don’t have any wine laying around
 

Johnd

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What should I top it up with? Since I don’t have any wine laying around
Top it up with a similar wine, grab something from the store if you don’t have any available. No need to spend a fortune, just get something decent. It won’t be wasted, you’ll get to drink it eventually. As you accumulate wine, you’ll always have some top up wine.
 

Tom Miller

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I have had this problem when making mead. I usually just add glass marbles to the carboy to raise the must.
 

sremick

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Topping up was initially the bane of my existence as a newbie wine kit maker. I tried finding similar commercial wines but I was adding so much I began to wonder just how much of the final product was the wine I actually made plus it was expensive and a hassle. I tried the glass marbles but that was a PITA and was taking too many (and I worried about the impact of the marbles damaging the carboy). I considered the balloon/air-bladder method. My ultimate solution was far from cheap, but as I'm going all-in as a wine maker I figured I would just bite the head off the frog, make the investment, then stop worrying about it. What I do is a combo of argon (as a heavier-than-air blanketing gas) plus vacuum. For the argon I have an 80-gallon cylinder. For the vacuum I use an "All-In-One Wine Pump".
 

NorCal

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Topping up was initially the bane of my existence as a newbie wine kit maker. I tried finding similar commercial wines but I was adding so much I began to wonder just how much of the final product was the wine I actually made plus it was expensive and a hassle. I tried the glass marbles but that was a PITA and was taking too many (and I worried about the impact of the marbles damaging the carboy). I considered the balloon/air-bladder method. My ultimate solution was far from cheap, but as I'm going all-in as a wine maker I figured I would just bite the head off the frog, make the investment, then stop worrying about it. What I do is a combo of argon (as a heavier-than-air blanketing gas) plus vacuum. For the argon I have an 80-gallon cylinder. For the vacuum I use an "All-In-One Wine Pump".
I have used the vacuum with a one way valve to successfully store a wine for a few months. A few things to note.

- Your vacuum seal is only as good as your valve, stopper and all the connections in-between. Using a vacuum gauge, I found that some of the one way valves or the press connection of the valve in the bung, or the bung in the carboy would not hold up the vacuum over time. I found I needed to constantly check and "top-up" the vacuum to assure I wasn't exposing the wine.

- I plan on the above scenario with vacuum leaks being the worst case scenario, but I realize that I could be loosing vacuum just because the CO2 is coming out of solution, which isn't harmful to the wine, but I have no way to tell if this is the case, so I constantly check and top-up.
 

sremick

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Your vacuum seal is only as good as your valve, stopper and all the connections in-between. Using a vacuum gauge, I found that some of the one way valves or the press connection of the valve in the bung, or the bung in the carboy would not hold up the vacuum over time. I found I needed to constantly check and "top-up" the vacuum to assure I wasn't exposing the wine.
Yeah I should get a fancier way to monitor vacuum but for now the snot-sucker balls on the headspace eliminators (from AIO) do a decent job. But that's also why I combine with argon... that way even if I lose some vacuum, there's a heavy-gas blanket still there.
 

joeswine

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try racking down to the size container you need. or learn to use nitrogen or some similar gas. topping up isn't always the answer. Think outside the box.
 

crabjoe

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Yeah I should get a fancier way to monitor vacuum but for now the snot-sucker balls on the headspace eliminators (from AIO) do a decent job. But that's also why I combine with argon... that way even if I lose some vacuum, there's a heavy-gas blanket still there.
If you're pulling a vacuum, how are you getting the argon in there?
 

sremick

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If you're pulling a vacuum, how are you getting the argon in there?
With the understanding that my equipment isn't pulling a perfect vacuum. ;) Add some argon first, then pull a vacuum (to some degree) using an AIO Wine Pump. So from what's left behind, presumably there's enough of it as argon to protect from whatever non-argon gas is also still remaining.
 

sour_grapes

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With the understanding that my equipment isn't pulling a perfect vacuum. ;) Add some argon first, then pull a vacuum (to some degree) using an AIO Wine Pump. So from what's left behind, presumably there's enough of it as argon to protect from whatever non-argon gas is also still remaining.
(Sorry to the others, who have heard me sing this song before.)

There is no such thing as a "blanketing effect." Argon will not keep the other gases from touching your wine. Gases intermix freely (on the timescale of minutes), and whatever gas is in the headspace will have access to your wine.

That said, I think your practice sounds good. Flushing the headspace out with argon helps remove most of the oxygen. (As said above, it does take tens of seconds for the gases to mix, so you are able to displace the air with argon.) Pulling a vacuum reduces the oxygen content even farther.
 

crabjoe

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(Sorry to the others, who have heard me sing this song before.)

There is no such thing as a "blanketing effect." Argon will not keep the other gases from touching your wine. Gases intermix freely (on the timescale of minutes), and whatever gas is in the headspace will have access to your wine.

That said, I think your practice sounds good. Flushing the headspace out with argon helps remove most of the oxygen. (As said above, it does take tens of seconds for the gases to mix, so you are able to displace the air with argon.) Pulling a vacuum reduces the oxygen content even farther.
I've got a crap load of nitrogen here from when I replaced my AC. Maybe I should use it like sremick does.
 

sremick

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There is no such thing as a "blanketing effect." Argon will not keep the other gases from touching your wine. Gases intermix freely (on the timescale of minutes), and whatever gas is in the headspace will have access to your wine.
Ok technically on a molecular level, sure. But don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. At the end of the day, more of the denser gas will be in contact with the wine than oxygen, reducing the rate of oxydation. In fact, I'd hypothesize that the O2-wine contact in a narrow space ("topped up" carboy) that has regular-pressure air in those remaining couple inches might be more than the O2-wine contact in a wider surface area that was first purged with argon then reduced to vacuum.

The use of denser-than-oxygen blanketing gasses is a commonly-accepted effective practice not just by commercial wineries but endorsed by many reputable resources I've found, such as:
https://winemakermag.com/technique/1308-inert-gases-techniques

So I'm a bit hesitant to dismiss it simply because there'll "always be some mixing of some molecules to a degree".
 

sour_grapes

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Ok technically on a molecular level, sure. But don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. At the end of the day, more of the denser gas will be in contact with the wine than oxygen, reducing the rate of oxydation. In fact, I'd hypothesize that the O2-wine contact in a narrow space ("topped up" carboy) that has regular-pressure air in those remaining couple inches might be more than the O2-wine contact in a wider surface area that was first purged with argon then reduced to vacuum.

The use of denser-than-oxygen blanketing gasses is a commonly-accepted effective practice not just by commercial wineries but endorsed by many reputable resources I've found, such as:
https://winemakermag.com/technique/1308-inert-gases-techniques

So I'm a bit hesitant to dismiss it simply because there'll "always be some mixing of some molecules to a degree".
I did not say you should dismiss it. But you would do well to understand it's benefits and limitations.

I agree that a dense, inert gas such as argon is useful for displacing oxygen and other gases (before mixing can take place). But at equilibrium (i.e., a couple of minutes later), the mixing is essentially total, not just "to a degree." Do you want a quantitative figure? I just did the calculation. The Ar content at the bottom of a 10 cm tall container would be enhanced over oxygen by a factor of 1.000005. That is, if you started with, say, 90% Ar and 10% O2, the wine would be seeing 90.00045% Ar and 9.99955% O2.

So, the real benefit is displacing the O2 originally, not due to any later (truly negligible) tendency of the Ar to sink.
 

mainshipfred

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My use of argon is only a temporary measure. For example last weekend I filtered a Viognier and was considering back sweetening it. I had about 1000 ml head space in a 7 gallon carboy so I purged it until this weekend. I also use it for my topping up wines and use a sparging stone to reduce the DO prior to bottling. A few wines I was really proud of I purged the bottles prior to filling.
 

NorCal

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Yeah I should get a fancier way to monitor vacuum but for now the snot-sucker balls on the headspace eliminators (from AIO) do a decent job. But that's also why I combine with argon... that way even if I lose some vacuum, there's a heavy-gas blanket still there.
I tried headspace eliminator and the snot sucker collapsed way before 20 inhg, so the ball is more useful as an oh crap indicator.
 

sremick

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I tried headspace eliminator and the snot sucker collapsed way before 20 inhg, so the ball is more useful as an oh crap indicator.
Has anyone tried replacing the ball with a pressure gauge, or (better yet) making their own with a one-way valve and pressure gauge?
 

ksw

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I had the same idea you had sremick , being a retired auto mechanic I worked with one-way vacuum values and vacuum gauges and made my own headspace eliminator . All of my carboys are under vacuum , one has a small leak but the other ones have zero leakage . I found that a silicone stopper works better than a hard rubber stopper for sealing .
 

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Rocky

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I guess I am lazy by nature or else I tend to take the path of least resistance but I always size down and it works well for me. Regardless of the size of batch I make, I end up with a number of 6 gallon carboys. If I have anything left over, I have a number of 5 gallon and 3 gallon carboys to take up the rest. I also have 1 gallon, 1/2 gallon and 3 liter jugs. Worse comes to worst, there are 1500, 750 and 375 ml bottles. I can always manage to rack the batch into these containers.

Occasionally, I have to open a finished bottle or two from my wine storage to top up but that is rare. What usually happens is there is a small amount that does not quite fit into any container and which becomes an "in process QA sample."

I do not concern myself with having to add a different wine to my batch. Wine one buys in a store only has to be 75% varietal in order to carry the variety label, so I believe my wines are generally more "pure" than store bought.
 
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